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Archive for September, 2010

Dallas Peak

Post dinner in Telluride, Pete and I drove up to the Mill Creek Trailhead and repacked for the approach hike into Dallas Peak. Leaving the truck a bit before 7pm, we’d have an hour or so of daylight to work with.

The first real camping option would only save us a bit of hiking and 600 feet of gain, so we decided to push on to the spots around 11,200 feet, knowing night fall would catch us before we got there.

Sure enough, around the junction with the Sneffels Highline Trail we broke out the headlamps and watched the evening light fade to the west as we churned up the switchbacks.

A campsite was easily located and water was still running in the creek. The night turned out to not be as cold as we’d expected and we were quickly off in the morning for the last tenths of a mile on trail.

Quickly we had to leave the trail and begin the grunt work – straight up the loose talus and scree to the cliffs well above.

We reached the sun about the time we hit the first cliff band. Helmets and sunblock came out and we found an easy scramble route through to the terraces above.

Working up and right we eventually hit the east ridge around 13,200 feet.

The route finding got a bit more tricky here, as we tried to find the easiest way through the often-loose terrain.

It was reassuring to recognize the summit cliffs, including the giant car-sized boulder that the rappel descent takes you around.

I soloed up some very low 5th class terrain through twin chimneys in a gully then built and anchor and belayed Pete up.

The rope was then coiled for the short airy traverse onto the north face and we easily located the wide ramp. Less obvious was just where to start the last pitch to the summit. I picked out an easy looking crack system that seemed to devolve into more broken terrain above and had Pete put me on belay.

A couple 5.easy moves then much fourth class and occasional 5.0 onto rubble covered ledges brought me to the summit. The hardest part was finding something that would do as an anchor. Pete quickly followed and we celebrated the completion of his hardest Centennial peaks (he’s just got 4 easier ones left now).

Expecting afternoon showers, we headed east to find the large rappel block with lots of new-looking webbing. I tossed the rope ends down to watch them disappear into the hole at the back side of the car-sized chockstone then started down.

After getting off rappel, Pete followed through the same slot and joined me to pull the rope.

Retracing our ascent route from here we kept to mostly the same line, only occasionally locating a route that went a little better.

More than the technical climbing on this peak, I was worried about all the loose scree covered ledges. Luckily, we descended those without incident and the exposure and steepness decreased the further down we went.

Once down on the trail we returned to camp, rapidly packed up and started the hike out. We were planning on doing the long drive back to the Front Range this evening since the weather forecast was calling for 60% chance of rain tomorrow.

Adam’s complete photo album
Pete’s photo album

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Chimney Rock (attempt)

After leaving Ouray we headed north then east towards Owl Creek Pass. I can’t say I’d recommending doing the drive on a moon-less night with all the all-black cattle enjoying the open range. A little below the pass we pulled over in a grassy switchback and threw out the tents. It wasn’t until dawn that we realized we’d selected a camp with such a great view of Chimney Rock.

After a slow start to the morning, we continued over the pass, then down the West Fork road to another forest service road and parked. Walking up the road we warmed up while Chimney Rock lurked above.

After the road ended, we bushwhacked along cow paths towards the east face of the peak, then hit the first short cliff band. Unprotectable 5.easy climbing took me to a treed terrace where I belayed Pete up. After having to trust a wall of embedded stones (what’s the chance that any one would pop out under weight? .1%, .01%?) Pete declared it the most ballsy lead he’d seen me do.

A little walking took us over a short section of 4th class then to another 15 feet of lead-soloing terrain for me.

Easy, but loose, ledges led to the base of the huge chimney splitting the south face of the peak. This is where the real climbing would start. Unfortunately, it turned out to not be much more solid.

I made a route-finding error and went left around the huge chockstone which then required tunneling through a slot to the end of the first pitch. While balanced on some iffy holds, I first took off the gear sling, passed it through the hole, then repeated the maneuver with my pack. Squirming through I was glad I wasn’t any bigger.

Cold and not real happy with the rock, I was at least now safe. After pulling up the rope Pete started to follow the pitch and had trouble with the initial moves. His confidence wasn’t really up this sort of terrain, even after the boost of Jagged Mountain. However, I needed him to follow the pitch and retrieve my gear so we could rappel down the better side of the chockstone. After 40+ minutes, he finally reached my belay and detested the squeeze hole as much as I.

It didn’t take much discussion to agree to bail. 4 more pitches awaited above and the quality was unlikely to improve, neither was Pete’s climbing speed. After all, this was supposed to be something of a rest day, and not a loose rock epic.

We rappelled back to the start of the climbing, then did another short rappel down the 15 foot cliff to a tree festering with rappel slings. This was the double-rope rappel down to the base, so we’d brought the tag line.

With the rappel complete we tried pulling the rope and it stuck on the too-featured rock. I restored to a self belay to climb back up to the tree, coiled the cantankerous tag line, and did a single-rope rappel from the tree. At least the rope pulled cleanly. I then had a sketchy traverse to another tree that I’d seen webbing on and did one last rappel to the ground.

Tails between our legs, but trying to find a moral high ground to stand on, we rushed away from the tower of choss and drove to Telluride where Smuggler’s Brewpub’s Two Plank Porter put me right.

Complete photo album

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Pete and I spent Friday afternoon driving to Silverton and stopping at a few breweries along the way. A perfectly clear and cool night promoted a great sleep by both of us near Molas Pass and as we packed up we weren’t too surprised to run into a group we knew headed into Vestal Basin. Our own hike was going to start much further east and we had some driving to do. As we accelerated from the trailhead a worrying thumping noise stopped us. Turns out, a weld on Pete’s running boards had just broken loose and we managed a bungee-cord repair and hoped it would hold for many miles of rough road.

Just getting to the Beartown trailhead was a bit of an adventure drive from Silverton over Stoney Pass, downhill then up a forest road that also doubled as a section of the Colorado Trail. By 10am we had located the parking area, finished packing and left the truck.

Our first milestone was Hunchback Pass, a bit less than one thousand feet above us and the gentle grade let us cruise up in about 30 minutes.

Then we had a long downhill, about 2,500 feet of descending as we reached and followed the Vallecito Trail almost to the Rock Creek Trail.

Just above the junction with the Rock Creek Trail we looked for an unmarked trail heading west that we’d heard about from some friends. The trail crossed Vallecito Creek at a pretty easy spot then continued on the west side of the creek.

The other important feature for us was finding another unmarked trail heading up Leviathan Creek. The trail turned out to be pretty easy to follow until the more open forests high up the drainage but certainly enabled us to make this approach in one day.

The trail faded and required more effort to find as we neared Leviathan Lake, but then we just scrambled up alongside the lake’s outflow to reach the stunningly blue water.

“Wow. This place is going on my short list of most beautiful lakes I’ve been to.” was my first thought. Our next thought was to locate a campsite for the night.

It had taken us 6 hours to reach the lake, and now we just needed to relax and rest up for the next day.

Our objective, Jagged Mountain, wasn’t in sight yet, but we could explore around the lake and scout out the first part of the route to a saddle west of Leviathan Peak.

We were somewhat surprised to see another group arrive at the lake (from above), since we hadn’t seen anyone since leaving Beartown and were miles from any trail. Still, the area remained pretty lonely as we never talked to the other group (who camped around the other side of the lake) and we went to bed early planning a pre-dawn start.

Watch alarms broke the night’s silence and we woke to a somewhat windy morning and quickly ate and started hiking.

By headlamp we traversed around the north side of the lake, luckily finding some goat paths through the willows and reached the more open talus fields as the sun replaced our headlamps.

From our campsite it didn’t take much more than an hour to reach the 13,000 foot pass west of Leviathan Peak where we finally saw Jagged Mountain, bathed in morning sun.

We traversed across the slopes to reach a second pass just north of Jagged Mountain, all the while comparing route photos to the face ahead of us.

It had snowed several days ago, and patches lingered on this northeast facing face. Given the wet and icy conditions in spots, we tried to find the easiest start up the lower cliffs.

Pete hadn’t been out climbing much this summer due to a broken toe, so his confidence on this terrain was a little weak. I scrambled up the first crux, found a large boulder slung with rappel slings and belayed Pete up with our tiny 100 foot rope.

The route was much easier for a ways above this, mostly connecting grassy and gravelly ledges.

Eventually we came up hard against the steep upper cliffs and started to traverse right to another up climb and below a notch.

Just below the notch was another rappel anchor, which we decided we’d use on the retreat. But now, we passed through the notch for a totally new view.

More traversing on this new face brought us to a chimney with some easy scrambling and nearly to the top.

A few final moves took us to the summit of Colorado’s highest summit that requires technical climbing. It just so happens that Jagged Mountain is also incredibly remote and rather beautiful, it has been on my to-do list for years.

The weather forecast a few days ago had been excellent, but some clouds rolling in had me a bit worried. It was time to descend. We retraced our steps down and back to the notch.

We did the first rappel just below the notch and continued the traverse back towards the deep gully then down to the next set of anchors.

The final rappel and down climb over, we packed away the rope and traversed back towards the pass.

By 10am we were back at the pass and the descent to Leviathan Lake went quickly.

Camp was packed up and we started in on the 2,000 foot descent back to Vallecito Creek. In returning to the Vallecito Trail we just passed the good creek crossing we’d used before and we both slipped on mossy rocks getting a bit wet.

After a good break to dry shoes and socks I killed what may have been the last of this year’s mosquitoes and we began the long hike back up to Hunchback Pass. Our goal was to reach the car with plenty of daylight left to drive back over Stoney Pass and reach Ouray for a brewery meal.

Hunchbacked was how we felt after slowly grinding up to the pass, but we reached the truck just after 4pm with plenty of time to hit the Ouray Brewery for dinner.

Adam’s complete photo album
Pete’s photos

Also, a nine and a half minute video of our trip.

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I have my headlamp ready when I walk away from my car at 7:30 pm at the Spruce Grove trailhead and campground. There’s a few potentially confusing junctions on the Lizard Rock trail, especially in the dark, so I push the pace to make it through the open woods as the sun sets.

I’m well in the trees and after 8pm when I need the headlamp. That’s also when I hit the wilderness boundary and mistakenly take the left fork at a trail junction. Four minutes of downhill walking convinces me to look at the map and backtrack to the unsigned junction and take the right fork up to Hankins Pass. Not so helpfully, a sign does exist one switchback up the trail.

The rest of the hike up to Hankins Pass is your standard night hike through the trees. At the well marked intersection with the Lake Park Trail I turn right into the woods and quickly locate a well used campsite that I’d spotted on a past hike. I settle in with just a bivy and small tarp for 7 hours of sleep.

Waking up just before my alarm’s scheduled beeping, I boil a small cup of water for coffee, eat some granola and hang up the sleeping and shelter gear in a tree. The rest goes on my back as I head back to the trail and start up the Lake Park Trail.

Sunrise catches me nearing Lake Park and illuminates the amazing rock formations that dominate this end of the Lost Creek Wilderness.

The 11,758 foot peak, unofficially called “Tarryall Peak”, to my left is my first goal. The trail takes me very close to its summit and a few minutes later, at 7am, I’m on top.

I’m on something of a tight deadline, so I hustle down and back along the trail through the open Lake Park and notice some huge frost crystals that haven’t yet melted in the sun.

Departing from the trail again, at a small saddle above Lake Park, I head east around a few large outcroppings and aim for “Lake Park Peak” at the lower elevation of 11,403 feet.

A bit of sun scrambling leads to the top and some surprise raspberries just below the summit boulders.

Reversing my steps back to the trail I take a closer look at a rock “arch” on the way.

Before 9am I’m back at my camp and repack for the hike out. The many aspens are just starting to show signs of the yellow hillsides that will emerge in a few weeks.

It’s just before the major holiday weekend, but still only Friday, so I don’t see anyone else until arriving back at the trailhead in time to drive home, quickly re-sort gear and meet Pete for bigger peaks to the southwest.

Complete photo album

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Wednesday arrived with cooler weather so Piper and I decided to get out while the hours of daylight still permit after work climbing. We decided on something much closer to the car and with shorter routes than the four-pitch Gambit we did on Sunday.

The Boulderado in Boulder Canyon was a new destination to both of us. Consisting mostly of several moderate trad routes (5.4-5.8) We decided to “warm-up” on Jam It (5.8), both of us taking a turn leading the route.

When my turn to lead came up next I chose Idle Hands (5.6) with it’s somewhat trickier gear placements. After lowering off and cleaning the route we moved over to the 5.9+ sport route “Qs” which Piper got the pleasure of leading via headlamp. Cars went by on the highway below probably thinking we were idiots getting benighted.

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